I actually started working on this post a week ago, but was waiting to post until I heard more about the plans. Since there hasn't been anything new for a week or so, I thought it was time to go ahead and finish.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has announced ways they intend to cut their budget. To no one's surprise, the changes don't include anything to reduce the prison population either immediately or even gradually (perhaps by enacting low cost programs to reduce recidivism rates). Instead, they chose the easy way of cutting excess personnel, but not guards, and other incidentals.
Effective April 15, 555 jobs will be cut or vacant posts will not be filled. These positions are not guard jobs or in unit parole officers but rather support personnel.
In addition, prisoner "luxuries" such as real milk and three meals a day will be cut. At all units, inmates will no longer get cartons of milk. Powdered milk has been used at state jails and transfer facilities since 2003, prison system spokeswoman Michelle Lyons told The Dallas Morning News.
In addition, dessert servings will be reduced to one per inmate per week, from two and kitchens will begin substituting sliced bread for hamburger and hot dog buns. Offenders at state jails and transfer facilities on Saturdays and Sundays will get "brunch" and dinner instead of three meals. Since many of the misleadingly named Pre-parole Transfer Facilties, particularly the privately run ones like Mineral Wells and Dawson, barely give enough to quell the hunger pains of the inmates this is sure to cause additional tensions in the facilities.
In addition, the legislature is considering eliminating all professional prison chaplains. The Baptist Standard reports that "[I]n addition to their counseling duties, chaplains are charged with managing prison religious programs that serve as the gateway for volunteers to serve in prison ministries. Chaplaincy also ensures prisoners have the religious freedom guaranteed to them in the First Amendment to the Constitution."
According to Emmett Solomon, the president of Restorative Justice Ministries Network and the former director of TDCJ chaplaincy, research indicates professional chaplains lower recidivism rates by at least 50 percent, improve inmate behavior and serve as valuable resources to offenders and TDCJ staff members alike.
Whoa is Texas. If you have family or friends in the prison system, call or email your state Senator or Representative and let them know that this isn't the way to handle the problem.